Culturally, there is a bit of a misperception about accountants and accounting job interviews. Many people believe that accountants, and the job interview they have, are boring. These people refer to accountants as "bean counters" and see them as colorless, robot-like counters of other people's money, incapable of making any decisions for themselves or for their business. In reality, the accounting field offers a lot of opportunities beyond the simple book keeping roles. For many companies, the accounting department is a training ground for future managers and executives, who will enter their jobs with a clear understanding of the company's balance sheet. Companies also use accountants as internal consultants, helping to achieve savings and optimal resource allocation throughout the organization. Lastly, in many public firms, accountants become increasingly responsible for management of other accountants and acquiring new accounts instead of pure accounting work.
Since all of these tasks require a high degree of teamwork, leadership and charisma, the accounting job interview will seek to uncover these attributes in addition to technical accounting skills. For that reason, someone preparing for an accounting job interview needs to spend a little bit of time working on their response to questions outside the realm of accounting. Their first step should be to do some research and discover exactly what the accounting job they are pursuing will consist of, in the short and long term. This research may be done with a combination of published and personal investigation and should uncover four elements; the daily duties, the desired results of the job, the personal characteristics the company desires; and the future career paths available to the position.
More Accounting Job Interview Advice
When you know what the company wants, you have a much better idea of what the accounting job interview will throw at you. That allows you to prepare. If your research indicates that the job you are applying for will require a high degree of teamwork, leadership and even sales work, you need to find ways to establish that you possess all those things. Look for examples in your personal and job history to find times when you dramatically demonstrated all of those attributes and creates a small story that demonstrates those elements. This story should have a situation, actions and results that the target firm will find relevant.
Prepare for your accounting job interview fully by conducting a mock interview. Get a friend or job interview partner to ask you the questions you have developed, and practice turning questions into answers complete with personal anecdotes. If possible, videotape these answers and review them for how complete, convincing and natural they sound. If you feel that they are not completely persuasive, you might need to do some more research or practice. On the day of the interview, make sure that you get there on time, wear a business professional interview outfit and allow the interviewer to take control of the interview initially. After the interview, be sure to write a thank you for the interview note. If you haven't heard back by the time that you have been told you would, feel free to respectfully and politely follow up with whoever arranged your interview and discover the status of your candidacy.
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